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Still enjoying the heat of the moment



Asiagrou Asia is officially back on tour -- and for their fans, it's not a moment too soon.

The four original members are playing Florida for the first time this week, including a stop last night at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall. Strolling onstage to the weighty notes of Holst's classical composition "Jupiter," the bandmates took a minute to drink in the standing ovation. Clearly, this tour is going to feel more like a "thank you" from the fans more than an actual rock concert at times.

The two-hour set included was weighted heavily in songs from the band's first two albums (the only two they produced together) along with pieces from their individual solo careers. A couple surprises included the underrated "Open Your Eyes" and stripped-down, acoustic versions of their hits "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" and "Don't Cry."

Bassist John Wetton's voice was in top form throughout the two-hour set: He belted out song after song as if no time had passed since the debut of the band's debut album 25 years ago. Steve Howe sent Yes fans into a nostalgia-induced seizure by strumming the opening notes of "Roundabout."

Drummer Carl Palmer, looking 20 years old with a fresh buzz haircut, proved just as energetic guiding the band through ELP's "Fanfare for the Common Man" before launching into a jaw-dropping drum solo during "The Heat Goes On." If he doesn't wake up until noon today, all the 2,000 in attendance will knowingly understand.

Keyboardist Geoff Downes broke out the silver jacket and campy shades for The Buggle's "Video Killed The Radio Star," a challenging fit for a prog-rock band that was nonetheless executed well while maintaining its sense of humor. Meanwhile, his opening notes to "Only Time Will Tell" still send shivers up the spine.

If there's a downside to last night's revival, it was the nagging sound and production snafus that seemed to sabotage each band member from time to time. It was, after all, only the second stop on their current tour so there are some bugs to iron out.

Still, if that's the worst thing you can say about seeing a band that hasn't played together in more than two decades, you're clearly missing the big picture. Asia remains the guilty-pleasure that should be simply enjoyed -- never questioned.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:23pm]


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